Even though the Baltimore Orioles did not make the playoffs, Manager Brandon Hyde has gotten the most out of his team, and he should be rewarded for his work.
The Baltimore Orioles were expected to be at the bottom of the League this season with 22 or 23 wins on the optimistic side well under 20 wins on the pessimistic side.
The team has already beat those numbers with 24 wins and have a chance for more, a testament alone to the success of this season.
A team with a losing record might not appear worthy of having the Manager of the Year, but the Orioles were competitive for much of the short season when they were expected to completely tank and reset for 2021.
They started out and impressive 12-8 before losing eleven of their next thirteen games and selling at the Trade Deadline. After the Deadline, they fought back to 20-21 and within a half game of the wild card.
The team record overall was not much ahead of projections, but earlier in the season they were as many as ten games better than their expected pace. We know that they have faltered in the end, but when the games mattered more they play better, if not quite good enough to make the playoffs.
The team numbers aren’t good, of course, but they are clear improvements over the last two seasons. Their ERA is 4.52, more than a full run better than the last place 2019 number, and their middle-of-the-pack slash line is ten to twenty points higher than last season, depending on which statistic you look at. The bullpen has had an even bigger improvement, with some legitimately reliable arms out there.
The players themselves naturally deserve a lot of credit for improving their game, most notably Anthony Santander and Pedro Severino at the plate, and Paul Fry and Tanner Scott on the mound. In addition, Mike Elias and his staff have something working in Bowie given the success of the call ups and recalls. No team can succeed without good players and development.
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But Brandon Hyde has done a remarkable job managing with limited depth and a rotation that tires easily. Yes, there have been a few instances where he has left pitchers in too long, but overall his bullpen decision-making has been pretty sound. He hasn’t been afraid of removing pitchers from high-leverage roles (looking at you, Cole Sulser) and he’s content to put in finesse pitchers if they can get outs, as Cesar Valdez has done in his outings.
His decisions have also largely worked well on offense. The amount of base-running mistakes is hard to watch, but those can’t be blamed on the manager. I appreciate that he puts the bunt sign down, especially in extra innings where every run is crucial. The team is only 7-38 pinch hitting, but one of the season’s best moments was when Severino and Pat Valaika hit back-to-back pinch hit home runs to comeback against the Nationals.
2020 has been much more fun than expected for Orioles fans, and Brandon Hyde should be recognized for managing a competitive team years ahead of schedule.